Andrew Nelles / Tennessean.com via Imagn Content Services, LLC
Let’s take a look around the NFL with just one game remaining on the Week 1 schedule
I am certainly happy that the NFL season is back. We witnessed several upsets in Week 1: Pittsburgh over Buffalo, Arizona over Tennessee, Philadelphia over Atlanta, Houston over Jacksonville, Cincinnati over Minnesota, and New Orleans over Green Bay.
One upset that didn’t happen was the New York Giants who were 3-point home dogs. It would have been great to see the Giants win against a 2020 5-11 team, but beggars can’t be choosers, I suppose. We at Big Blue View want to give a more comprehensive view of the NFL. Every week we’ll be submitting a column of said week’s winners and losers. These are fluid and can change week to week, but here’s the week one edition of winners and losers.
Stafford didn’t waste any time by hitting Van Jefferson with a 67-yard touchdown on his first drive as the Rams’ quarterback. It was on a play-action rollout post – a prevalent play in Sean McVay’s offense. Some questioned Stafford’s ability to operate on the run, but he did a great job flipping his hips, setting his feet, and driving this throw into Jefferson for the long touchdown.
The Jefferson touchdown was followed up by an opening second-half 56-yard touchdown bomb to Cooper Kupp. The ball jumps out of Stafford’s hand when he launches these passes. Stafford finished the game with 20 completions on 26 attempts for 321 yards and three touchdowns. He nearly missed a fourth touchdown, but Kupp was down at the one yard line. This offense with Stafford, McVay, and all of these weapons can be incredibly dangerous this season.
The former New England Patriot missed most of the 2020 season with a biceps injury that required surgery. His return didn’t garner much national attention, and the addition of J.J. Watt to the defense seemed like more of the storyline. However, Jones played excellent football on Sunday in the Cardinals’ 38-13 road victory over the Titans.
Jones tied a franchise record with five sacks against the Titans. He shares the record with Haasan Reddick who sacked Daniel Jones five times last season – most of us unfortunately remember that day. Chandler Jones is only two years removed from a 19-sack season where he was the runner up for defensive player of the year. With Watt playing next to him in this Vance Joseph defense, watch out for the 31-year-old pass rusher.
Obviously, all the winners are winners, but the Dolphins earn a vital victory in Foxborough against the Patriots. A key Damian Harris fumble late in the fourth quarter preserved the Dolphins’ 17-16 victory. Miami should also rejoice in the Bills’ home loss to the Steelers.
A road victory in New England is incredibly hard to accomplish, especially with a young quarterback. Bill Belichick is notorious for confusing young signal callers, but Tua Tagovailoa did just enough. Tagovailoa went 16-of-27 for 202 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He did add a rushing touchdown. This is an important early-season victory for the Dolphins considering the rest of the division lost.
Most rookie coaches
It’s fair to say that the rookie coaches performed well in Week 1, sans Arthur Smith of the Falcons and Urban Meyer (more on him later) of the Jaguars. Even Dan Campbell was much more competitive than many imagined in the Lions’ 41-33 defeat to the 49ers. Eagles’ coach Nick Sirianni led Jalen Hurts and his offense into Atlanta and put a beat down on Smith and the Falcons. The Eagles gained 434 total yards on offense and beat the Falcons 32-6.
The Texans’ David Culley defeated Meyer at home, which is important because many believe the Texans are inevitable to select first overall in the 2022 NFL Draft. That still may be the case – remember the Jaguars defeated the Colts in week one last season – but Culley and the Texans put Meyer and Trevor Lawrence to task. It’s nice to see a veteran NFL coach in a tough situation earn a win.
Robert Saleh and the Jets weren’t perfect against the Carolina Panthers, but they mounted a late touchdown drive that was finished by a Corey Davis touchdown from rookie quarterback Zach Wilson. The two-point conversion failed and the Jets lost 19-14 – the defense did play hard for the Jets. It’s a loss for Saleh, but there was resilience towards the end of the game with a rookie quarterback who looked timid at some points in the game.
Brandon Staley traveled from the West Coast to Washington, D.C. where he helped Justin Herbert earn a tough road win against the Football Team. Herbert hasn’t played in front of fans since college, and a West Coast one o’clock game can pose problems for the West Coast teams, but the Chargers were able to defeat Washington. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s injury didn’t help, but Joe Lombardi (offensive coordinator) was able to help this offense defeat a dangerous defense.
Many anticipated that the Minnesota Vikings defense would have a bounce-back season, after a questionable 2020. However, Week 1 on the road was a challenge for the Vikings defense as Burrow went 20-of-27 for 261 yards and two touchdowns. Burrow looked comfortable, efficient, and made big time throws to Tee Higgins and his college buddy Ja’Marr Chase, who could easily be on this list after a marginal preseason.
It was good to see Burrow’s comfortability taking hits – he was sacked five times. It was also good to see Burrow and the Bengals not acquiesce to the comeback effort of Kirk Cousins and the Vikings. The offense stagnated down the stretch of the game, something that should dispel them from consideration here. And the defense came up with a big fumble in overtime, but the questions about Burrow’s knee and running back Joe Mixon’s usage have been answered. Mixon received 29 carries for 127 yards and caught four balls for 23 yards. It wasn’t perfect, but the Bengals won the game as an underdog.
I want to refrain from just naming teams that lose on the list. Obviously, losing football games would constitute a place on this specific list, but the Packers losing 38-3 in Jacksonville, Florida against a team that’s been dealing with the effects of Hurricane Ida is eye-opening. Jamies Winston was a winner for the five touchdown passes and the efficient passing attack he led on Sunday. Packers’ fans favorite punching bag Kevin King was a victim of Winston and this aerial attack.
Green Bay was outgained by more thn 100 yards, star wide receiver Devante Adams was held to just five catches and 56 yards, while Aaron Rodgers threw two interceptions. The offense looked hapless, they couldn’t run the football, and it seemed obvious that their offseason filled with distraction may have spilled into the regular season. However, credit shouldn’t be withheld from Sean Payton and the rest of the Saints.
As referenced earlier, there were several upsets throughout the first week of NFL action. The spread didn’t fare too well with all these upsets. The Falcons, Jaguars, Packers, Patriots, Bills, Titans, Vikings, and The Football Team were all favored to win – none of them did. The 49ers won by 8 points – the spread was 8.5 (CBS spread, some books had 7.5). The Chiefs only won by 4, a point and a half away from the spread. The Broncos, Seahawks, and Panthers covered their lines, but the rest of the teams failed to do so. Week 1 can be tricky with all the new moving parts, but contrarians are the winners in Week 1.
The three-time national champion college coach had a turbulent start to his NFL coaching career. CBS Sports reported that he had “several issues” with his own players on Sunday morning before 37-21 trouncing they received from the ostensible hapless Houston Texans.
The Texans have been likened to a tanking franchise. Their star quarterback doesn’t want to play for them, and he’s dealing with a lot of legal issues, and their roster consists of veteran journeymen. Many sports books, including vegasinsider.com had the Texans as the worst team, per over/under: their win total was four, and they just scored 37 points on this Urban Meyer team.
There has been quite a bit of negativity surrounding Meyer ever since he became the Jaguars head coach. Some doubt his ability to adapt to the NFL game – something that many former college coaches struggle with coming to the NFL. It’s only been one game, so no need for an overreaction, but it’s safe to say the start isn’t pretty. That is why he lands on this list.
The 2021 third-round selection by the San Francisco 49ers was a healthy scratch by Kyle Shanahan in week one. To everyone’s surprise, Jamychal Hasty and sixth-round pick Elijah Mitchell were the backups to starter Raheem Mostert, who ended up leaving the game after a few snaps. The 49ers were playing against the 28th-ranked rushing defense in 2020, albeit they have the knee-eating Dan Campbell at the helm instead of Matt Patricia.
Sermon was in a position to earn valuable snaps in a favorable matchup, but he was out-played in the preseason by Hasty and Mitchell. Mitchell ended the game with 19 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown. The Lions allowed 4.7 yards per carry in the failed come from behind effort. A player like Sermon carried heavy hype into the season, and it appears he failed to impress enough, or he was just outplayed by Mitchell in camp. Regardless, it would have been a smash matchup for the young player to see valuable reps.
Tennessee surrendered 38 points to an exciting offense in the Arizona Cardinals. The Titans were at home in the game. This is primarily concerning because the Titans are a team that is predicated on running the football with big Derrick Henry. There were many questions about the Titans defense heading into the seasons – those questions don’t seem to be answered.
Henry did have 17 carries for 58 yards in a game with negative gamescript, due to the Titans trailing early. The young defensive coordinator Shane Bowen struggled to adjust to the playmaking ability of Kyler Murray who threw for 289 yards, four touchdowns, and added another on the ground.
Murray is very difficult to deal with, especially when he’s throwing to talented wide receivers like DeAndre Hopkins (6-83-2 touchdowns and Christian Kirk 5-70-2 TDs). This could be a fluke, and we may realize that next week at Seattle, but if this Titans defense can’t keep scores manageable, then the offense may be forced to stray from their identity. That could be an issue for Henry and the Titans as a whole.